Kate Harding was nine years old when she helped her Mother dig over their garden in Tenbury Wells. Her Mother found this object, which looks like a coin, walks like a coin, quacks like a coin, but is apparently, not a coin.
Her Mother died shortly after this event, and young Kate kept the ‘not a coin’ as a keepsake.
14 years later, she idly wandered into the Ludlow museum and asked jobsworth Peter Reavill whether he could tell her anything about it.
He told her that it was a piedfort, a rare piece struck for presentation purposes, and one of only four ever found in the UK.
Ms Harding didn’t want to part with the coin, it was of great sentimental value to her, but the museum were keen to possess it. They bombarded her with calls and letters telling her that under the Treasure Act 1996, she had 14 days in which to report her ownership of this item to the Coroner.
The Act defines as treasure, any item at least 300 years old which is not a coin but has a precious metal content of 10% or more. Even the Royal Mint describes a Piedfort as a coin – albeit not one in general circulation.
If Ms Harding had done any research she would have felt quite safe ignoring the pleading letters from Ludlow museum.
The museum were not to be thwarted though, when she ignored Peter Reavill, he reported her to the Coroner, who in turn called in the Police.
Yesterday she was up before the Ludlow magistrates – who ordered her to hand the coin over, AND pay £25 towards the cost of prosecuting her.
Quite apart from the technicality of whether this is a coin or not – and I hope that some kind hearted barrister offers to mount a spirited appeal for her – the State have just forcibly taken a precious memento from a young girl who lost her Mother at a tender age – for what?